Internet Poker Legality in the United Kingdom

UK Online PokerThe questions of legality for online poker seem to be more easily sorted out by the officials and government gaming overseers in the United Kingdom. More so than any other nation, the UK has clearly defined the legalization, regulation and general oversight of online poker. The strength of the United Kingdom's system also lends credibility to the European Union leaders who are working to regulate similar online poker freedoms around the EU member countries. The UK's organization also offers a useful model for other countries seeking wisdom about how to orchestrate such a program as well as evidence that not only is legalizing and regulation online poker a possibility, but that handling the process well can have national benefits.

The information about the legality of online poker in the UK is a reflection of currently available news and research. However, for more specific legal advice regarding this matter, consult a professional, licensed attorney.

Gambling Act of 2005

Effective September 1, 2007, The United Kingdom's Gambling Act of 2005 unified the national regulation of all forms of gambling around the UK, which had been previously regulated under three separately developed laws. Since 2007, all forms of gambling except national lotteries and spread betting are now organized under the oversight of the Gambling Commission, also created by the 2005 Gambling Act.

Business owners wishing to establish a brick and mortar casino or poker room must obtain both operator's licenses and personal licenses from the Gambling Commission. Other legal documents and permits for facility operation are done according to typical business practices in the locality. Operators must offer clear communication of the nature of the games they offer on the premises. According the new Act, which is also working for public safety in gambling, staff at casinos and cardrooms must be trained to identify people who may suffer from "problem gambling" issues. Facilities must also post helpline information for problem gambling services.

Established casinos and poker rooms were also required to gain appropriate licenses under the terms of the new Gambling Act. Some restrictions were loosened under the Act, such as releasing casinos and bingo halls from requiring patrons to become "club members" in order to play there. Advertising for gambling even came under the regulation of the Act in an official capacity, in a less restrictive way. Television commercials fitting guidelines from the Commission are now permitted for some poker rooms and casinos, provided they air after 9 p.m. or during an authorized sports event.

Gambling Commission

Instead of the previously existing Gaming Board, the Gambling Commission is now the legal governing body for the implementation and practical oversight of the Gambling Act of 2005. Operator and gambling facility licenses are all issued by application to the Gambling Commission and subject to their approval. Operators must meet certain agreements including working to protect "vulnerable populations," such as underage people and problem gamblers, in accordance with public interest.

Officially the Gambling Commission has a dual responsibility to act in the public interest. First, it serves to protect players and operators by providing regulation for fair play, consistent regulations across the region and creating an open communication system about gaming rules, distributing payouts, accounting for errors and other betting rules such as late bets or voided bets. Casinos and poker rooms are now required to honor their payouts, which previously was not the case. Players are able to abide by the posted guidelines, with clear understanding of their rights and limitations. Of utmost importance in public interest is preventing vulnerable people, like children among others, from any crime or exploitation connected with internet gambling.

On the other side of its responsibility, the Gambling Commission is charged with addressing the government and advising the lawmakers about matters of gambling. Whether this is in a form of advocacy, evaluation of the present Gambling Act procedures or future legislative policies, the Gambling Commission is a representative body to the government as well. The Gambling Commission works with the UK national leadership even in matters such as working with the European Union Council on attempts to establish EU-wide online and on-ground gambling regulations.

Online Poker and Gambling Permitted Under Act

One of the biggest advances made by the establishment of the Gambling Act of 2005 is provision for online casinos or remote betting operators within the UK. Now, online poker rooms and online casinos can be "based" in the UK and therefore licensed and regulated under the laws of the UK's Gambling Act, even if the operators are from locations outside the UK. This allows a significant expansion for remote betting and online poker rooms to develop in the UK, which they have done since the 2005 Act came into effect.

The requirements for online poker rooms are very explicit to those applying to be operators. They apply to companies publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange such as Party Gaming (running Party Poker) or SportingBet (running Paradise Poker) or to privately held companies, as the licensing requirements are now universal throughout the UK. Overall, the Gambling Act of 2005 implements a sort of code of appropriate conduct for operators to gain and retain licensing. The requirements include regular strict financial auditing to ensure honest bookkeeping as well as outside, independent company testing of the random number generation software to ensure truly fair play and random card selection in online poker games.

Players reap the benefits of these regulations as it increases the confidence that an online poker room is legitimately funded, required to payout winnings and offering truly random card hand deals. Operators also reap benefits from this regulation. For companies listed on the London Stock Exchange and operating by these UK laws from a base within the UK, the operators gain some protection from other governments trying to press charges about offering poker or gambling services to their country's people. If the sites are UK-based and in compliance with UK law, they operate fully legally, regardless of who accesses the sites to play.

That said, many of these publicly traded companies have withdrawn access from all United States players since the U.S. implementation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. Most publicly held UK sites do not authorize real money play or real money deposits from U.S. citizens. Some don't allow U.S. player access at all, while others do maintain play money access for U.S. poker players. Most of the rest of the EU and other countries don't have those limitation for playing on UK poker sites. Unless the particular country is working to actively block player access to those sites, other international players are freely able to play for both real money and play money. The legality questions for those players are based around their nation's laws, not the UK laws.

The UK is thoroughly revolutionizing online poker play for the rest of the world. Many nations are looking to the UK model and its success so far, as a marker that online poker and online gambling legalization and regulation are effective. With the helpful presence of the Gambling Commission dedicated to the oversight of the online gambling system, the UK also enjoys the revenue boost from overseeing and licensing operators. Taxes and licensing fees come back to the country and can therefore be designated to social services or other public interest projects as the government and Gambling Commission see fit. While this is not their sole motivation for legalizing online poker, it certainly is a benefit to the legal online poker play in the UK. UK and other players are glad to legally, freely engage in their favorite online poker games, so the business seems to be a mutually winning combination that is likely to keep forging ahead in the future.

Of course, for a more precise and confident answer, please talk to a lawyer. To move on to the next portion of our Beginner's Guide, click the link below.

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